(CN) - After investigating a deadly explosion at CES Environmental Services in Houston in July 2009, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has proposed penalties of $1.5 million. An employee cleaning a tank was killed when an altered piece of equipment ignited flammable vapors inside the tank. OSHA said it was the third fatality in less than a year at CES facilities.
CES is a waste management company. Among other things, OSHA found that 15 pieces of electrical equipment were unsafe to use in the tank wash area due to the presence of flammable and combustible vapors. It claims that CES failed to ventilate tanks in which employees worked, exposing them to toxic air. And it claims that CES stored flammable and reactive chemicals together, creating hazards of fire and explosion.
The company already has been fined more than $224,000 for two hydrogen sulfide exposure-related deaths at another facility, Port Arthur Chemical & Environmental Services, on Dec. 18, 2008 and April 14, 2009. Those citations were contested and are being litigated before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
CES was sued a year ago by neighbors of the Houston facility, who claim CES is "illegally changing labels on hazardous material barrels," and "engaging in the illegal trafficking of hazardous substances" that made the residents sick.
CES and Port Arthur Chemical together employ 155 workers.
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